A program that enables property owners in western Riverside County to upgrade their homes with energy-efficient products and renovations through low-cost financing just passed the $50 million mark, it was announced Thursday.
In January, the Western Riverside Council of Governments implemented the “Home Energy Renovation Opportunity” — HERO — program, under which homeowners can fund installation of solar power equipment, skylights, new insulation and other products and modifications by rolling the costs into their future property tax bills.
To date, retrofits valued at $50 million have been approved — half of them in the past two months, according to WRCOG.
“The rapid expansion of the HERO Financing Program shows us that this is the right program at the right time for western Riverside County residents,” said Calimesa City Councilman Jim Hyatt, who also chairs WRCOG.
“Homeowners are ready to make these investments, and convenient access to affordable financing encourages them to make their properties more energy and water efficient.”
WRCOG, which represents 17 cities within the county, partnered with San Diego-based Renovate America Inc., a municipal financing concern, to establish the HERO program.
Any homeowner with at least 10 percent equity in his or her property is eligible to apply. HERO loans pay for basic weatherization of a residence, setting up wind turbines or photovoltaic cells for power, more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems — even door replacements — according to the program website, www.wrcog.herofinancing.com.
Approved applicants can amortize loan repayments over five to 20 years.
The costs are added to annual property tax assessments and can be deducted from state and federal income taxes. If a home is sold, the outstanding loan balance transfers to the new owner.
Applicants’ credit scores are not factored into a loan decision.
However, individuals whose properties are in foreclosure or bankruptcy will not be approved, according to the website.
More than 400 contractors are participating in the HERO program. They’re listed on the website.
According to WRCOG, the HERO program is expected to generate up to 4,000 jobs and conserve about 15 million kilowatt-hours locally in the coming years.
State legislation passed in 2008 laid the groundwork for the program and others like it elsewhere in California, which has a renewable energy mandate that 33 percent of all electricity produced in the state be of the “clean and green” variety by 2020.